A late drop goal from Lloyd White clinched the unlikeliest result of this or any other Super League season.
When a side bidding to go top of the table is 18 points ahead of one that has not won since last June, it is surely game over. Not so at Widnes in this incredible game. White began the fightback by going over from dummy-half. Shaun Briscoe then scored his second of the match, from a pass by Gareth O'Brien.
Then with 15 minutes to play and the Stobart Stadium going wild, Frank Winterstein drove over the line and O'Brien collected his sixth goal from six attempts to tie the scores.
White, who learned his trade at Crusaders before becoming one of Widnes's mass of signings for their first season back in Super League, won the game with a cool one-pointer, but he almost lost it again by conceding the penalty for ball-stealing that gave Josh Charnley his chance to add to his six conversions. His shot drifted wide and all Wigan's desperate late effort came to nothing, leaving their coach with the obvious questions to answer.
Shaun Wane rested five regulars, including Sam Tomkins. There was family representation, however, with younger brother Logan on the bench as one of three debutants. Wane denied any regrets over his selection. "The team we put on the field was well capable of winning that match," he said. "I needed to find out about those players and I learned a lot."
Widnes, who also had three new faces and a total of six ex-Wigan players, took note of the visitors' selection policy and used it as a motivating factor.
"We did speak about it, but if I'd got the same quality of player as Wigan I'd probably do the exact same thing," said jubilant Widnes coach Denis Betts. "I've been saying we were getting better, but no one believed me."
Wane seemed to have got his calculations right when his mix-and-match side went straight into a 12-point lead with tries from Gareth Hock and Harrison Hansen. Paddy Flynn began Widnes's first comeback, but Matty Russell celebrated his first Wigan appearance by reopening the gap.
The Vikings were level by half-time through tries from Stefan Marsh and Shaun Briscoe, but Wigan struck three times early in the second half – scoring through Brett Finch, Joe Mellor and Russell – but the home side just refused to be beaten.
Widnes: Briscoe; Flynn, Marsh, Phelps, Isa; O'Brien, Craven; Pickersgill, Clarke, Davies, Winterstein, Allen, Cahill. Subs used: White, Kite, Finnigan, Mullally.
Wigan: Russell; Gelling, Goulding Charnley, Hughes, Charnley; Finch, Mellor; Lima, McIlorum, Mossop, Hansen, Hock, Tuson. Subs used: L Tomkins, Flower, Lauaki, Spencer.
Referee: R Hicks (Oldham).
* Huddersfield took advantage of Wigan's stumble to go top of Super League with a 32-14 win at Wakefield. Joe Wardle marked his selection in the England Lions squad this week with two tries that swung it the Giants' way.Reuse content